'Seven Sins' review — a night of not-so-guilty pleasures

Read our five-star review of Seven Sins, Company XIV's acclaimed burlesque variety show, which is playing a second season at Théâtre XIV through August 19.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

We all know how Seven Sins will end. It's the legend of Adam and Eve: from the Garden of Eden they fell after the devil cajoled them into eating the forbidden fruit. But at the end of Company XIV's burlesque rendition of the tale, when the illusion of guiltless sin has shattered and Adam and Eve dance a disenchanted pas de deux in an empty Eden, it's tough to believe all the tantalizing displays of pleasure up to this point were a mere fantasy.

Because, of course, they aren't. These performers, their talents, and the glee derived from watching them are real. Company XIV has created a flourishing paradise in Brooklyn where the only sin is to resist its charms — or to not go at all.

The devil (played commandingly by Lexxe) is our emcee for the night, presenting all seven deadly sins as wondrous virtues. It's a marvel that it takes all seven to convince Adam and Eve, because the first number alone should do it. Red-hot lights and a sultry live cover of Frank Sinatra's "Bang Bang" bring wrath alive. The accompanying choreography isn't exactly rageful, but the dancers, led by Nicholas Katen, perform it with attack and make anger feel empowering.

That number is a personal favorite, but that doesn't mean the others are any less spectacular. Vanity erupts with a flurry of peacock-feathered dancers (costumes are by Zane Pihlström). A sensual belly dance signifies lust, and jealousy, greed, and sloth all get aerial numbers that fly between the stage and the audience.

The final sin, gluttony, offers a decadent feast for the eyes and ears, with Brandon Looney leading the full company in a bonkers song-dance-and-slapstick act that ends in a can-can and confetti. Pihlström's candy-colored costumes look good enough to eat — and if you got a VIP seat, your hunger will be satisfied with the appearance of your own not-so-forbidden fruit. (Snacks and beverages are on sale throughout, so everyone else can still indulge their inner glutton.)

Led by creator/director/choreographer Austin McCormick, Company XIV has put on burlesque variety shows since 2006. They've found their niche and tuned it to perfection. Even Seven Sins is on its second run after premiering last year, and it's running right across the street from the company's equally intoxicating Cocktail Magique.

But what makes Seven Sins stand out in particular is its deliberate and gleeful queering of its source material. These characters aren't people so much as manifestations of desire, so their fantastical costumes don't so much live in between the masculine-feminine spectrum as fly off it altogether. Performers of all genders tease, tempt, and seduce Adam and Eve, and they're more than happy to give in.

The show may end on a somber note, in keeping with the ancient story, but the real takeaway from Seven Sins is that sometimes, what's considered sinful outside the theatre's four walls is actually worth indulging in — and unapologetically celebrating. Pleasure. Self-expression. Confidence. Beauty.

If that's a sin, then send me to hell — or at least to Théâtre XIV.

Seven Sins is at Théâtre XIV through August 19. Get Seven Sins tickets on New York Theatre Guide.

Photo credit: Lexxe as the Devil in Seven Sins by Company XIV. (Photo by Deneka Peniston)

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